reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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a mixed bag. [d.r. thursday]

$6.99. for ten. that’s not cheap. and i have often wondered why they are not included as a perk for city taxes or the utilities and waste pickup. i always – really always – print out the coupon for $2.00 off and have them in my purse every fall. but even then, $4.99 is still not inexpensive.

the other day we stood in the grocery store in front of the biobag display and had a few terse words. i didn’t have any printed coupons in my purse and he-who-shall-remain-nameless-in-this-story wanted to buy a couple boxes. everything inside me railed against buying them without the coupons. i even said that i would go back – after i downloaded the coupon page and then went to the officemax to print them (since our printer was on the fritz). he said my time was worth more than that. i wondered – again – why, if kenosha is providing a link for the coupons on their city site for anyone and everyone, the stores don’t just discount them at point of purchase. it seems like a ridiculous exercise in wasted paper, a little bit of irony – especially when the reason to purchase them is to be environmentally mindful. seems a little plastic if you ask me. to let you off the waiting-with-bated-breath hook, we bought the biobags – two boxes – and i tried to forget that we paid full price.

while i recognize the absolute need for biobags – and the ability for them to disintegrate – i wonder how all people can afford them. they simply cannot purchase boxes and boxes of biodegradable biobags in lieu of food or in lieu of paying the mortgage or rent or gas for the car to get to their job or the WE energies bill. there has to be a way for everyone to have access without breaking the bank. i can tell you that there were many times we stood in the store and had to think about whether or not to purchase them. and now, we are back there…thinking again about the cost.

the trees around us haven’t lost all their leaves yet. we will finish out the boxes of bags we have and then, i suspect, we will use those big black plastic bags and take them to the compost site out by the airport and dump the contents into huge piles. we can reuse the black bags for the next runs and the next runs. as we fall into winter we will definitely mulch some on the yard as well and rake some into the gardens for critters to take refuge and find warmth.

leaf-raking time is a funny time. it brings back a zillion memories of my poppo out front raking leaves and leaf-raking parties with hot cocoa and cookies (we had a zillion trees at my growing-up house) and, later down the road in a different time, a different state, my kiddos loving jumping in the leaves and despising raking. we love to swoosh our feet through the leaves as we walk and the scent of fallen autumn leaves is divine. we drive around the ‘hood, astounded at the sheer number of bags at the curb and try to remember how many weeks the city will pick them up. we can smell leaves burning as we drive to our favorite trail and we watch as people use those big blower devices to blow leaves into the street, passing on leaf-responsibility and encouraging their leaves to blow into their neighbors’ yards.

leaf mulchers. leaf blowers. leaf burns. leaf piles. leaf bins. leaf parties. leaf them alone.

it’s a mixed bag. yes. pun intended.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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dandying me with courage. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it plummeted. this stunningly beautiful day – high 60s and touching the bright happy face of the low 70s – and then…

the highest high this week is 42, with a feels-like of 38. the lowest high this week is 26, with a feels-like of 13, which, incidentally they label “very cold” in parentheses next to the number 13. no duh. the lowest low will be 15 and the app leaves us guessing – right now – on the feels-like of that. so…yes…it plummeted.

but for a few days november teased us and dandy lions rose from the dirt, roaring, “spring! it must be spring!”. i’m betting if we hiked out there – say today – snow showers in the forecast – all the dandies would be gone, all shriveled and sad, tucking their heads down against the wind and elements. but those few days…

they are reminders of things we don’t appreciate while we have them. reminders to stand in gratitude – to look around all bright-eyed and see the amazing things in our own sphere as we encounter them. we linger often on the negatives, the anxieties and angsty worries, the what-we-don’t-haves. but on the day you can feel the sun on your face and are surrounded by the colors of autumn and the dandies are in bloom and the owl hoots in the night, i feel like it would sustain me longer were i to linger just another minute to recognize it all.

this past week. a hotbed mixture of happenings and emotions. loss and sundrenched days, both. the dashing of dreams and dreaming, both. end-of-life and birth, both. i look back and try to stand in each of those places, try to soak it up – like a dandelion in last-licks-sunshine – and i try to appreciate it all. not just appreciate it…reeeeally appreciate it. it all matters. fear is in there too…we are human and we get scared. but gratitude is like a warm blanket and it helps, even a little.

we were lucky to hike, lucky to drive north a few hours to see a friend perform, lucky to have had a time of security, lucky to stand together in an rv dealership and dream “someday”, lucky to prepare soup for dinner with 20, lucky to sit by our pond sipping wine, lucky to light happy lights around our house. we were lucky to see the sun come up through the windows east of our pillows, lucky to see the sun go down through the trees on the trail. i was lucky to hear even a tiny text from both beloved kiddos, lucky to 3-way-hug with d and dogdog, lucky to stand at the kitchen table and miss my sweet momma.

to spend a few more minutes relishing might carry me a little further down the road, a little further away from big worries. each thing a bit of ballast, stabilizing, centering, grounding me, dandying me with courage.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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a bounty of astounding. [two artists tuesday]

it is most astounding to me. each and every time. it doesn’t matter the shining of the sun or the drizzle or the misty humid air or dusk falling around us. and though it is familiar – oh, so familiar – it is new when we visit, our footfalls on the path erased and lasting as we walk. i’m comforted by this trail. and it teases me – into truly wondering about thru-hikes and exquisitely ordinary days that explode into extraordinary just by entering them.

this is an easy trail. we have hiked many others. easy trails, moderate trails, difficult trails. elevation gains, a little scrambling here and there. but when – and it is often – we need an old quilt of a trail and time to be quiet, to think, to talk, to sort, to sink into astounding beauty, stillness and ever-percolating life, we hike here, close by.

my camera is ready. i try to capture it all to remember. the trail is full of linear lines now as the underbrush succumbs to the season. a bounty of astounding. even in transition.

i believe – as we enter the woods – that it greets us back.

and as we leave – filled up – it waves and whispers, “see ya.”

“have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives —
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?” (mary oliver)

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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a chicken and a cow in autumn. [two artists tuesday]

my nephew called. i guess technically he isn’t my nephew now but neither one of us cares about the technicality of it. we talked a couple years ago but not since. no matter. he was ironing and he thought of me. he described how ironing makes you just kind of slow down and lets your mind wander. and so he followed his instinct and dialed. i told him i was glad he wasn’t thinking of me as he was washing the floor. he agreed and said that a washing-the-floor conversation wouldn’t be as whimsical.

whimsical.

i loved how he used that word. we slowed down our hiking, shuffling our feet through the leaves on the trail, david encouraging me to chat. my nephew and i laughed and told stories, asked questions, laughed some more. later, in some text-reminiscing, he asked me if i still had the beer cap earrings he had bought me when we were together up-north many years back. he said, “you’re one of my favorites.” i walked slowly into flashes of another time of life. it was a gift.

from the deck it looks like a chicken. suddenly a chicken leaf fell from the maple tree and landed squarely on our little curlicue-fence. i stopped at the top of the steps and drew d’s attention to it. “look at the chicken back there!” i insisted. we laughed at the chicken on our fence. ok, not exactly. but imagination is a funny thing. we make castles out of refrigerator boxes and gazelles out of cumulus puffs. we create out of thin air.

“have you noticed that autumn is like a yellow cow?” (pablo neruda) “have they counted the gold in the cornfields?”

we are not alone in our imaginings. pondering leaves, clouds, swirls in the lake’s surface, rocks on the trail, i wonder what it would be to not ponder these things. i feel like i might laugh a little less, like there would be a little less whimsy.

i’m not sure how autumn is like a yellow cow, though i am sure that is valid for pablo. it’s all good. it makes the world go round with a little more pizzazz. there is gold everywhere.

right now i’m just wondering where exactly my beer cap earrings are.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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drum roll, please. [d.r. thursday]

we have waited.

it’s not like we will get a medal or a certificate or a trophy. we will not be featured in a newspaper article we can clip and put on our fridge with the pizza-place-magnet. we won’t be acknowledged on a who’s who list nor on a marquee.

but we waited anyway.

the fuel and heating company is coming on friday to do a check-up on our boiler. in the meanwhile, we have waited.

until now.

it is with a mix of pride and trepidation that i will approach the thermostat. under the flannel sheets and the comforter and the quilt all is well. but step out and whammo! the cold is biting. and that’s IN the house.

one glance at the grasses out front – oddly looking like a packer-backer display – and you know it’s fall. no doubtaboutit.

the weekend before this just-past weekend – that would be two weekends ago just to be clear – i pulled out a pair of boots with fake fur in them. the fur was visible at the ankle. i wore them out. and it felt completely wrong. it was too early. i put them on the steps to go back upstairs into the winter shoe bin.

but they never made it up there. because – suddenly – in the briefest of days passing – it was no longer too early. the autumn winds have found their way here and fur is in order.

so, today as i type – a few days before the day that this post publishes – my nose is cold and my hands are freezing. and i have to give in.

i need to turn on the heat.

there is something wistful about that. the end of summer. a time of fallow to come. it was christmas in the home improvement store the other day and it’s not yet halloween. for a few moments, i panicked, thinking about how i had not completed or even started any presents-shopping. i mean, whattheheck, i just started wearing furry-ankle-boots. i relaxed as we passed the trick-or-treat candy display and the plastic pumpkin pails and perspective returned.

so – though i am hoping the fuel and heating company might come a little sooner – maybe someone will cancel their check-up, deciding to tough it out ala life-below-zero folks, deciding that mr. we (as 20 calls the electric and gas company) won’t be racking it up – atleastnotyet – on them, deciding it’s not that bad and wearing one of those snuggies – the official blanket with sleeves – all day – i think that it just might be The Day.

at the very least, maybe we could have a drum roll.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

earth interrupted vii (48″ x 36″)…the colors of deep fall
(the snuggie from my sweet momma)


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slowly. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we almost did it. almost. almost ordered thai food for pick-up.

but we didn’t.

we’d been hiking and were cold and tired. and we didn’t reeeeally want to make dinner.

but we did.

eventually.

we got around to it.

slowly.

we pulled our adirondack chairs into the last vestiges of sun in the yard, sipped wine, had a happy snack. when the sun disappeared, we brought our glasses inside and painted rocks – from the sand near the beachhouse – at the kitchen table, for we had hidden all the ones we previously painted. time stretched out in front of us, slow, a glorious saturday night.

instead of pad thai, we made tacos with homemade seasoning, had one of the last two avocados from my sister, watched a hallmark – yes, hallmark – movie under a big sherpa blanket, had two squares of chocolate.

hiking – tough elevation climbs – on this last trip to north carolina reminded me to go slow. it was the lesson i brought home from vacation. set a slower pace, don’t set too high a bar, mosey a bit, let living happen.

so i planted the painted rock on our sunroom table on top of sandstone from those smoky mountain trails. the other side of the rock reads, “no. slower.” you know…take a backroad, linger in the setting sun, sink under a blanket, climb a little slower.

my snapchat alerted me to a flashback. two years ago. on a balcony in aspen. the caption: “i don’t want to leave.” i remember slowly packing up, slowly loading the truck, slowly driving away. it was hard to go – as always – but slower made it a little easier.

i leave summer slowly and i step into autumn – my favorite – slowly. i wasn’t really ready for flannel. i pulled off the summer sheets for the last time in the season, thinking about how it feels on a hot night to place your face on a cool spot of the pillow. flannel isn’t like that.

but at the end of the night, after hiking and tacos and wine, chocolate and blanketed-movie-watching, in a house chilled by blustery northwest winds, the flannel was warm and i found myself snugged in soft stripes, slowly drifting off.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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witnesses. [two artists tuesday]

out of the corner of my eye i caught a glimpse of him leading her over to the edge of the garden. something about his tenderness made me stop and linger. he had his hands on her shoulders and was looking right into her face. and suddenly, he got down on one knee.

they were strangers – and remain strangers – but i had goosebumps of excitement as i watched him on his knee. we couldn’t hear anything, really, but when she threw her arms around him and he was beaming, it was pretty obvious. family and friends spilled out of the places they had hidden in the botanic garden and surrounded them, celebrating.

it was a moment in time. and we were witnesses to it.

we walk along the shoreline and marvel at the expanse of lake michigan. often – after the work day is over – the sun is lower in the sky to our west, so the sky over the lake is starting to turn all crayola-like as we walk. our shadows get longer, longer. it would seem we are on stilts. we stop for a minute to appreciate it all, take a picture, hug. witnesses to the end of day, one that we cannot recreate no matter how hard we try.

we walk on, sometimes entirely quiet, sometimes reviewing our day. we marvel that it is mid-october. already. witnesses to time flying, warp-speed, flimsy tendrils floating you cannot harness.

our trail was mostly empty on saturday. hiking there – in the woods – is like wrapping in a comforter. the turns and twists, the meadows, the fallen logs…they are known to us, familiar. it had been a couple weeks. many leaves had fallen. the ones that remained were yellow, some red, some orange. some of the trees were hanging on – their leaves were still green, but i imagine the color changing tiny bit by tiny bit even as we passed by. witnesses to autumn.

we often photograph our shadows. there is no worry about smiling in a photograph of your shadow. funny thing, though…we almost always smile anyway. the capture in time we got to be in a place, together, passing through, witnesses to a moment.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the edges of autumn. [two artists tuesday]

somehow breck knows. nature, in all its wisdom, whispers “it’s approaching” and breck’s gorgeous aspen leaves begin to turn.

we sat against our pillows with coffee this morning, a cool breeze through the bedroom windows. the crows were cawing and i could hear the lake pound the rocky shore. there is a beach hazards alert today calling for rip currents and higher waves. it’s a little grey out – the day i am writing this – and you can feel fall in the air. the wistfuls are at bay, waiting just a little longer to kick in.

but the grasses are evidence, as plumes of gold and maroon shoot up toward the sky. the cherry tomato leaves are beginning to yellow. the long stems of daylily flowers – sans blooms – are drying. the chippies are amping things up. there are just a few less birds in the morning and we hear geese overhead. up-north, along the side of the lake as we paddled, there were pockets of color. maples turning just a bit, reds and yellows, catching the sunlight. the mornings were cool, sweatshirt-worthy. playing bags in the garage invited a few yellowjackets, their quest to stay alive in september always pre-empting my ease outside as i try to avoid getting stung. it is quieter here at home during the day; school has started. it’s dark now when we wake up and the sun is setting earlier in the evening. autumn is arriving. we are standing at the edges.

we sat on the deck late saturday afternoon after a day of chores around the house. we talked about how it is already september. we tried to remember june. i opened the photo gallery on my phone and went back to the end of may so we could track the events these months. dates and happenings blurred as we strolled through pictures and not-too-distant memories. how does this happen? time flying by.

at the end of a week fraught with sudden worry, we were grateful. we had ridden the roller coaster of fear and intense concern, we had been lingering for days in not-knowing. we reached the end of the week with a few answers, the best of the possible worrisome scenarios. and we were grateful.

breck’s leaves quaked in the breeze that picked up that evening. a few raindrops fell on us. we stayed in our adirondack chairs on the deck and turned our faces to the sky. autumn is coming – in the way seasons roll round and round – and we are happy to greet it.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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fuchsia shibui. [k.s. friday]

“rather than being a fall away from beauty, ageing can be the revelation of beauty, the time when the inherent radiance becomes visible.” (john o’donohue)

perhaps i would have noticed these leaves in the prime of their life, clotheslined on the branch, hanging in the sun. their verdant green might have captured my attention and the focus of my camera. but i kind of doubt it. for, indeed, they would have blended into the rest of the woods, the rest of the underbrush, the colors, the shrubbery, the landscape.

in the autumn of their lives, these leaves are ravishing. they gesture to the camera and invite my study. their ageing is their invitation to relish their presence, the visual “hey! look at me!”.

these days it is predictable. there is something – each day – we will say that is a reminder, though gently and with soft humor, of the very fact that we are ageing. we poke at ourselves, with self-deprecating comments about wrinkles or crepey skin or bellies changing or achy joints. we roll our eyes and then one of us reminds the other to be present in it and joyful and grateful, mostly grateful. we are not eloquent in those moments. they involve words like “sheesh!” or “stahhhhhhhhp!” or comparisons “but look at MY wrinkles!”. to suggest we are ageing gracefully is to ignore the american cultural emphasis on youthfulness, with ageing depicted negatively. in contrast, ageing in japan is revered. the elderly have the utmost respect. in the autumn of their lives, turning toward mid-life and beyond, the flaws earned throughout life are considered the very things that intensify beauty. shibui, it is said, is an aesthetic turn toward subtle and unobtrusive beauty, textural in elegance and roughness, diverse in spontaneous and restrained, a balance of simplicity and complexity, understated but not innocent, gorgeous words about meditation over spectacle. (wikipedia)

yesterday, in the middle of thinking about kneeling on the stripes, i found myself stumbling upon hearts. there was the heart – a random piece of ripped tissue – on the hinged lid of the stainless wastebasket. the hearts on the shower curtain, light somehow filtering through the holes holding curtain rings, reflected down onto the curtain itself. the heart leaf on the sidewalk. this morning the heart, shaped from the skin of the potato, on top of the tiny wedge of breakfast potato. it was a little uncanny. but was it?

or perhaps it is some kind of universe message – raising its voice over the din of flaw-noticing and in-the-pause-thinking and liminal-space-white-noise – reminding me of being loved. in this autumn-of-my-life. that the fuchsia is showing up, is a statement in the middle of a dense forest, raising the ordinary to extraordinary, the natural presence of shibui.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

EVERY BREATH from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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out that window. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

first glance would suggest this is a black and white photograph. an image taken through the window over our kitchen sink, a view i have seen first thing in the morning about 12,000 times and the last minutes at night just before turning out the kitchen light and moving into a time for sleep, about 12,000 times. and any time inbetween, in the day as morning marched into noon and noon glimmered into midday and midday waned into evening. each time, gazing out, about 12,000 times.

that is likely paralleling how well ansel adams knew the american west, images of wild and rugged yosemite etched into his heart. how many times this maestro of his art must have studied those vistas, photographing morsels and overviews, contrast and shading in all seasons. striking focus, his work inspires adventure-out-there-juju and, more importantly, an environmental awareness in these times of climate crisis. without color, the attention of the aperture pivots to grandeur, is not distracted, but is challenged by shape and line and form and composition.

taking a photograph through a window is different than taking it without some kind of membrane between photographer and subject. it gives space for other kinds of interaction. the play of reflection, the underside of raindrops, never-minding the swipe of window-cleaner-rags. opportunity to see, a unique peek into the familiar, wherever you might be.

this is not a black and white photograph. it is the stuff of october days heading full-steam toward november. it is the drear of rainy and damp and cold. it’s wishing 65 degrees was not vanishing into the calendar.

and yet, having looked out of that window maybe over 100,000 times all told, i know that the view, framed by a painted cornice, kitchen cabinets and our old porcelain sink, is different each day, that the days are not identical and never really the same, that change is always a constant. and that some days, when i point the camera out the window it will capture intense color, vibrant sun, blue sky, leaves the colors of fire and rust and squirrels running on the wire.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY